In November 2014, CHC threw the 21st annual Feast fundraiser. The event’s activities—a culinary array provided by 22 NYC chefs, assisted by 26 local newscasters; silent and live auctions; and a moving program—raised over $730,000! All proceeds are benefiting people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.
Earlier we shared excerpts from the program’s speeches, from 93-year-old Mr. Fred Nives and his wife, Donna, in the post “What does severe hearing loss feel like?”. Here’s another of those moving talks, this time from Anne Worcester and her 17-year-old daughter, Victoria.
On raising a child who’s deaf with CHC
“I’m Anne Worcester, and I’m a very proud board member of this extraordinary organization. My parents Tom and Karene also benefited from CHC and [Dr.] Ellen Lafargue, and I’m here to tell you the story about our daughter.”
Mommy mommy, I can’t talk. Mommy, mommy, my teeth aren’t working!
“My husband Tom and I will never forget [that] day as long as we live… We came back from a nice lunch out and Victoria, already plucky and sassy at age three, toddled into the garage and said “Mommy mommy, I can’t talk. Mommy, mommy, my teeth aren’t working.” She was talking, but she couldn’t hear herself talk because she had just suddenly lost her hearing.”
A child suddenly deafened
“She was later diagnosed with Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome, which results in late onset hearing loss and sometimes deafness.
“… After a zillion appointments with doctors, surgeons, and hospitals, as well as hearing, speech and language professionals, as well as countless parents who dropped everything in their lives to give us advice, and just 22 days after she was suddenly deafened, Victoria was surgically implanted under the expert care of Dr. Noel Cohen at NYU.
“Tom and I had some experience with hearing loss already because Victoria’s then five-year-old brother Tommy had been diagnosed with a moderately severe loss just 18 months earlier. We had scrambled to learn about the best technology in hearing aids, the best speech and language therapy, how to train him in socialization skills, how to translate his hearing loss to his teachers, his coaches, his peers, and so much more. It was a full time job to work with so many different professionals in so many different places to get him the very best care and technology he needed. And we knew with Victoria’s deafness—we knew it was definitely going to be a far more complex road with Victoria, and we were feeling overwhelmed to say the very least.”
When we walked into CHC, our lives changed.
“There under one roof was everything that anyone with a hearing loss would ever need from birth to old age, audiologists, speech and language pathologists, child psychologists, parent support groups, where I met my BFF Kassie DePaiva who is well represented by her husband and son here tonight, and they were just kind caring hearing loss experts everywhere you turned.
“CHC became our home away from home for the next two years… There I experienced a remarkable transformation. Victoria was taught to hear in a whole new way with her cochlear implant as well as receptive and expressive language, and how to speak all over again because she had lost her speech. What a gift. Our plucky and sassy toddler who had receded into isolation while not being able to hear nor speak reappeared in spades.”
Deaf People Can Do Anything
“Years later we returned to NYU for her second cochlear implant surgery, this time under the expert care of Dr. Tom Roland who is with us here tonight. And the next morning fit to be tied with bandages, pain and discomfort, Victoria angrily told Dr. Roland, ‘I’m never getting a third implant!’
“There have been many bumps in the road since Victoria lost her hearing 13 years ago. Academically, emotionally, socially, technologically. But by and large she has remained strong, positive, and resilient. One of the highlights was in 8th grade when she wrote a poem called ‘Deaf People Can Do Anything.’
“There are so many stories I could tell, but perhaps it’s best you hear from Victoria herself. Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride that I introduce to you our sweet—most of the time—but always plucky and always sassy daughter Victoria Karene Worcester.”
“Thanks, Mom. It was very difficult growing up with a hearing loss. I was so small. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened to me. One day I heard, and the next day I didn’t. Normally kids my age would be playing on the playground not having a care in the world. Me, on the other hand, I was at CHC every week.
“Living a life with hearing loss I always used to miss parts of conversations and not be able to contribute. I really felt like I was on the outside. “What” or “huh” were the two most commonly used words at the time… Imagine being the only kid in the class with a hearing loss missing out on other things kids would say in the cafeteria or the playground.
“I remember when I first got my implant being so angry I’d take the implant out and throw it on the streets in New York City and my mom would have to run and chase it down. Sorry, Mom!”
Coming of age with hearing loss
“But those trips twice a week to CHC really made a difference. There I was fully supported by CHC’s incredible staff, and believe me I was not always so easy. I also met other kids who were going through the same thing I was. I met my lifelong buddy J. Q. DePaiva. It was comforting to know he was going through the same thing I was. In fact I maintained a close relationship with JQ and his family throughout the years. Maybe a little too close. When we were eight we got play married but then we got divorced.
“I’m now a junior in high school, on the honor roll and looking into colleges. Even though it hasn’t always been easy… I know that my deafness can’t hold me back. It makes me more determined to succeed in everything I do. And for that I’m forever grateful to CHC and my parents.”
Thank you for supporting CHC and all the families we serve.
We’re so proud to be part of Anne and Victoria’s story and their success. Hearing Victoria’s words loud and clear, spoken so confidently before an audience of 500, was quite the inspiration.
The Center for Hearing and Communication provides clinical services to people with hearing loss and support for them and their families, without exclusion of those less fortunate. The only reason we are able to do so is the generosity of donors.